UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE IN SEEDS – What does it all mean?
Before spending a few hundred dollars (or more) buying up a bunch of seeds, it is important to understand a bit about different versions of seeds (open pollinated vs hybrid), how they grow (determinate vs Indeterminate) and if you can save the seeds from this year's garden to plant next year.
Open Pollinated seeds: The seeds of open-pollinated plants will produce new generations of those same plants. You can save the seeds from these veggies, fruits and flowers and expect to have the same thing grow from the seeds. It will reproduce just what you got the seed out of. (Yay! This is what you want!)
Heirloom seeds: This are also open-pollinated seeds but they are not always labeled open-pollinated because "heirloom" means it has been grown in a family and handed down generation after generation. (This is another thing you want.)
Hybrid seeds: Hybrid seed is seed produced by cross-pollinated plants. In hybrid seed production, the crosses are specific and controlled. Hybrids are bred to improve the characteristics of the resulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity, improved color, disease resistance, and so forth. But you don't save the seeds from these plants so you can plant your garden with them the next year because they won't come out the same.
Now, let's be clear: NOT ALL HYBRID SEEDS ARE BAD. Hybrid seeds can be as simple as crossing 2 kinds of bush green beans so you have a sturdier bush that holds the beans up higher out of the dirt. There is nothing wrong with these seeds, except for those wanting to be able to replant the seeds from these bean bushes next year. When putting together a long term seed storage list, sometimes it actually makes sense to have some hybrid seeds in the mix (only some).
The above kind of hybrid seed is not what they call a Franken-seed – where companies (uh, like maybe MONSANTO???) goes in and sticks pig DNA into a corn seed or poison genes into the DNA of some plant so bugs will die if they eat that plant. Now we're talking GMO, weird, un-natural Frankenstein seeds (hence Franken-seeds). Usually a hybrid seed that you find in a seed catalog is just a hybrid, not some Franken-seed. Monsanto keeps most of their scary stuff for the mega-farmers that grow all our corn, wheat, oats, etc.
But if you stick with Open Pollinated and Heirloom seeds (whether they are organic or not) you know you have no Franken-seeds and you can save up seeds from what you grow, and you can plant them next year.
Organic vs Non-Organic: This refers to how the seeds were grown. Even if you get seed that is not called organic, if you plant it in your organic soil, and only give it natural organic fertilizer (and lots of love), don't you think that what would be in your garden would be an organic plant? Ya, you betcha. So while buying organic seeds is a dandy thing, it's what you do to it after you plant it that is really important.
Balance in everything. Look at it like this: Better you should have a non-organic open pollinated seed than an organic hybrid. The first will serve you better in the long run. And you'll actually turn the non-organic seeds into organic ones once you save the seeds from your first year's plants.
So organic vs non-organic seeds is your call. Go with organic if you can, but if you can't find all the things you want inorganic, don't have a cow. Get non-organic. Just go for open-pollinated or heirloom.
Determinate vs Non-Determinate: One last thing before moving on: Have you ever read about different varieties of tomatoes (there are a jillion kinds) and noticed where it says they are either Determinate or Indeterminate? Ever wondered what that meant? (some are lazy and some are go-getters?) Determinate tomatoes set their fruit (the 'maters) all at one time: you wake up one morning and all 36 tomatoes are ripe at one time. This is a really handy feature if you want to make tomato sauce or can lots of tomatoes.
Indeterminate tomatoes are ones that keep producing some tomatoes from early on all thru the summer until the plantsdie. This is perfect for home gardeners that want to eat a few tomatoes on a regular basis all summer and fall.
So for canning or drying, get Determinate tomatoes. For eating, get indeterminate tomatoes.
KNOW YOUR GROWING SEASON ( and g et seeds that will grow in your area)
While the USDA Zone Map shows us here inwestern Washington as being in Zone 8, just likeTexas, we know that our growing season hasNOTHING in common with summer in Texas! Werarely get above 86 degrees. Texas rarely dipsbelow 86 degrees at night let alone during theday.
If you live up here in the Pacific Northwest, you know that we're lucky if we can plant tomatoes in May without a lot of extra protection. Then we hope the rainy season and chilly temperatures don't come back too early so we actually get to have some of the green tomat oes turn red before the end of S eptember. And while we are transplanting tomato plants into the ground in June here, the gardeners in Utah are HARVESTING and eating tomatoes by June. Now THEY could probably grow okra.
So get some idea of what is the earliest you can plant regular veggies (not the super early ones like snap peas and broccoli), and how long before the cold weather kills the last of the things in the garden. Armed with your average growing season, look for seeds with the "Days to Maturity" within your range.
DAYS TO MATURITY
When I get seeds, I get the very shortest "Days to Maturity" I can find. If the seed descri ption says 57 or 60 days until the veggie is ready to harvest, then I figure I have a chance . If the description says 110 or 120 days until harvest (like some onions) , then I might as well go get organic dehydrated minced onions because chances are slim I'm going to grow enough to do any good.
One way we here can extend our growing season is with row covers.
People in the central and southern US have a much longer growing season than us so they can get nearly any kind of veggie or fruit to maturity.
Then you have the people in Texas and the Southwest. Their problem is so much heat it kills whatever they try to grow. For them, using shade cloth can allow them to garden where it otherwise wouldn't be possible.
IT MATTERS WHERE YOU BUY YOUR SEEDS
Where are you buying your open pollinated and heirloom seeds from? There are now great companies in many locations inthe United States. This is a huge change from just 10 or 15 years ago. Even the really big companies have seen the light (or the dollar sign) and have gone into organic and heirloom seeds.
OK, we're really far north in the US. So is Montana, northern Idaho, North Dakota and Maine. Our sunrises and sunsets are on a very different schedule than folks in the southern states of the US. We get light before them in the summertime, and we stay light hours after they are dark. In the wintertime, we are dark by 4 in the afternoon, while they are still in daylight. It has to do with the tilt of the planet.
If there are plants making seeds that you are then going to plant, and those seeds come from plants that year after year are used to certain growing seasons, and temperatures and length of days, all that data is packed away in their itty bitty DNA.
So if you get a packet of seeds that come from parent plants that just love really warm soils and months of hot sunny days and hot summer nights and you plant those little heat loving southern seeds up here in Washington or Montana, just how happy do you think those seeds will be - freezing their butts off up here? (Guess it depends on how nice you sweet talk them ;o )
Here is a good rule of thumb: pull up or find a map of the US. Now find a seed supplier that is on or close to the same latitude that you're on. That way, when the sun comes up, they go Yeah! time to get up! (not WHAT??? Now???)
The length of days does make a difference in plants. You should see the dandelions in Alaska. Because their days areabout 23 ½ hours long in the summer, they have dandelions that are dang near hip high and strong enough to climb. It'swild.
- GOOD PLACES TO BUY ORGANIC & HEIRLOOM SEEDS IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE US
- GETTING SEEDS FOR BUSHES, BERRIES AND TREES
- YOU WANT 2-3 YEARS WORTH OF SEEDS, WHY ????
- HOW TO PACKAGE YOUR SEEDS FOR LONG TERM STORAGE
- Category: Preparedness